'Sanju' review: Ranbir Kapoor steals the show

With Sanju, Hirani orchestrates Sanjay Dutt’s return to grace from his many, many off-screen falls with this onscreen homage. Image Courtesy: Twitter

Sanju

Rating: ****

Director: Rajkumar Hirani

Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Paresh Rawal, Vicky Kaushal, Manisha Koirala, Boman Irani, Anushka Sharma, Dia Mirza, Jim Sarbh

Ranbir Kapoor is back, people. Sanju, the much-anticipated biopic based on Sanjay Dutt, directed by Rajkumar Hirani, starring Ranbir Kapoor as Sanju Baba (as Dutt is fondly known) released today after its fair share of controversies and delays. The most noteworthy of them all was Salman Khan and his fans being miffed that Khan wasn’t cast as Sanju, the role going to Ranbir Kapoor instead, whom Hirani favoured for being the younger of the two. And what a blessed choice that has turned out to be. In the movie, Dia Mirza, who essays the role of Sanjay Dutt’s real life wife Maanyata, tells him:

“You know what they say. Bad choices make good stories”.

Casting Ranbir Kapoor as Sanju was probably the best choice Hirani could have made.

Anyone who has followed Dutt’s real life saga knows he has been embroiled in controversies and scandals galore, including but not limited to his substance abuse, possession of the AK-56 assault rifle, being tried as a terrorist in court after the Mumbai blasts in 1993, his jail terms, and other stuff that comes with being a high-profile, highly visible Bollywood star. His most famous (arguably his most successful) roles were in the Munnabhai franchise, under Hirani’s starstruck directorial baton. After reprising his role as Munnabhai in the second edition of the franchise in 2006, Lage Raho Munnabhai, Dutt was sentenced to a six-year prison term after he was convicted (charges of terrorism against him were dropped, but he was found guilty of illegal possession of weapons). The third movie that was announced in the franchise, trailers for which had already been circulating, never did get made because of this.

Sanju the film follows Sanjay Dutt’s life, from being a reluctant star kid turned film hero, to his many shenanigans in his early years, to being deified on screen, then being vilified off it and his subsequent return to civil life after serving his prison terms. And Hirani, with his trademark mix of humour, emotional blackmail, and celebration of the human spirit, gives a huge welcome back to Sanjay Dutt with this non-Munnabhai venture. Hirani, one of Dutt’s most vocal allies, makes no bones about his disgust for the way Dutt was covered by the media after the Mumbai blasts and his subsequent convictions. In fact, what is presented here in the movie feels cherrypicked for the sake of the script that only favours Sanjay Dutt.

Paresh Rawal plays Sunil Dutt, yesteryear actor turned politician, who takes it upon himself to help his son find redemption. And Rawal, being one of Bollywood’s few superb character actors, sinks his teeth into the role. Hirani keeps his directorial gaze focused on Sanju’s father's love for his wayward son. And while the film has many things going for it -- including trademark Hirani flourishes and tropes of preachiness, love for the retro-glam version of Mumbai, a vampish number, lingering aerial shots of the maximum city’s landscapes, his penchant for silly humour, rag-tag regulars from the Hirani films stable – the pace drags in the first half. Perhaps Hirani was attempting to make the first half as unsavory as possible because the second half is entirely swaddled in affection for his dear friend. The first half runs the risk of overdramatisation and descent into juvenilia, but Manisha Koirala who has a short role as Sanju’s mother (yesteryear heroine Nargis) keeps it alive. The film picks up the pace in the second half, becoming more staccato in its scene progressions, leading to an ending that is more cinematic license than factual representation.

Of the cast, Dia Mirza and Anushka Sharma are adequate. Jim Sarbh is menacing. Vicky Kaushal is a great choice as Sanju's sidekick — watch this one, he will go places. Manisha Koirala is lovely beyond compare. And Paresh Rawal is perfectly cast as Sunil Dutt. And what to say of Ranbir? His physical transformation for the role is astonishing to say the least, and his heavy-lidded, droopy-shouldered, gangly-limbed awkwardness and mannerisms couldn't have been more on point. He has morphed into Sanju for this role. What a mad, insane, powerhouse of talent -- both inherited and God-given -- he is.

With Sanju, Hirani orchestrates Sanjay Dutt’s return to grace from his many, many off-screen falls with this onscreen homage. And in making this film, Hirani may well have given Ranbir Kapoor his career back.

Stay back for the closing credits. You don't want to miss it.

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'Sanju' review: Ranbir Kapoor steals the show

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